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Sometimes referred to as Catskill Park, the land that would eventually become Catskill State Park was obtained when Ulster County fell behind on its taxes in 1885 and exchanged the land with the state of New York in return for wiping the slate clean. Though the area was heavily logged, there are several sections that remained untouched because it was too difficult for the lumber companies to access. In the early 1890s, New York recognized the value in tourism and outdoor recreation, and over the subsequent decades, New York slowly added trails. In the 1930s, as a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, Civilian Conservation Corps added even more trails, outbuildings for park rangers and visitors to use, and roads. It was about then that New Yorkers started using this region as a vacation destination in summers and winters.
The closest town with a variety of shopping, including a Walmart store in Ellenville, NY. The distance varies depending on one’s departure point in the park, roughly 20 to 40 miles south. Prepare for an RV camping trip of a lifetime when you book an RV in Ulster County.
Often called the eastern equivalent of Yellowstone National Park, Catskill State Park encompasses around 600,000 acres. The terrain is extremely varied from steep, rugged mountains to open meadows to lakes to deep, plunging gorges. There are a few hundred miles of hiking trails, many of which are shared with horseback riders. Mountain bikers are restricted to certain trails due to regulations established in the late 1990s. The sound of running water is a constant presence along with birdsong and the wind in the trees. There are hundreds of small waterfalls that appear only after heavy rain and just as quickly disappear. A few waterfalls, however, gush year-round. One of the better-known ones is Kaaterskill Falls, which is the highest waterfall in New York. Topping 260 feet, the two-tier fall has been memorialized in paintings and photographs for decades. The hike to the bottom of the fall is about one mile, and though it’s steep at times, it’s not overly difficult for most.
Although trail riding is limited, many roads that wind and weave through the Catskill Mountains are designed to accommodate bikers. It’s regarded as one of the best - and most scenic - roads to travel on bikes.
In addition to swimming and tubing down one of the many rivers and creeks that meander through the valleys of Catskill, fishing is a time-honored tradition. The Catskill region is said to be the birthplace of fly-fishing. The Fly Fishing Center and Museum in the nearby town of Livingston Manor is an excellent place to learn about the local fishing holes, the best lures to use, and even pick up some tips to improve fishing techniques.
A common reason to rent a camper is to eschew hotels. Wake up before the crack of dawn and cast your lure into the water within minutes. Roast s’mores over a campfire outside an Airstream rental and listen to the sounds of nature as stars appear into the sky. There are dozens of RV campgrounds in Catskill State Park; some are public while others, privately-run facilities. Bear Spring Mountain Campground is one of the older campgrounds in the park. Near Downsville, NY, the campground has over 40 RV sites, restrooms with hot showers and dump stations should a camper require it. It also has a small stable that can accommodate up to 24 horses (the owners must have a negative Coggins Certification).
Alternatively, there are campgrounds with more modern amenities. The KOA near Woodstock, NY, is an award-winning campground that is extremely family-friendly. The KOA has a mini-golf, disc golf course, planned activities, and a swimming pool. There is free WiFi throughout the campground, and dogs are allowed.
Driving the twisting mountain roads is an enchanting experience at any time of the year. Small towns nestled in the nooks and crannies of the lush mountains are full of history and charm, and spending a day or two exploring them in a motorhome rental is as fulfilling as hiking or fishing. Emerson Kaleidoscope in Mt Tremper, NY, is the world’s largest kaleidoscope, certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Built inside an old farm silo, the kaleidoscope is 56 feet tall.
Many small towns host various festivals and community events throughout the year. The Taste of Country Musical at Hunter is the largest country music festival in the northeast. Usually held in June, it regularly hosts big-name artists, food vendors, and local artists and crafters. Tap@NY is a great event at which to try new craft beers. Usually held in April, it has grown to host over 400 craft brewery vendors.